Aung San Suu Kyi concedes she won’t become Myanmar’s next president

Lindsay Murdoch
Published: January 9, 2015 – 7:56AM

Myanmar’s opposition leader and democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi
has acknowledged she will be unable to become her country’s next president
after elections later this year, a decision that will disappoint millions of her supporters.

The 69 year-old Nobel laureate will instead seek to chair Myanmar’s parliament
where one-third of seats are allocated to the military, according to Aung Shin,
a spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD).

Ms Suu Kyi has conceded that despite intense lobbying Myanmar’s quasi civilian
government will refuse to abolish a constitutional clause barring her from the
presidency before the elections that are seen as a crucial test of the country’s
move towards a freer and open society after almost 50 years of often-brutal
military rule.

The clause specifically directed at Ms Suu Kyi bars anyone from becoming
president who has a spouse or child who is a citizen of a foreign country.

Ms Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and their two children hold British passports.

Taking the chair in parliament would boost Ms Suu Kyi’s power and likely increase
unity among opposition parties.

NLD candidates including Ms Suu Kyi are expected to poll strongly at the first
election the party has contested since it swept the polls in 1990 when the then
military junta ignored the results.

But many of Ms Suu Kyi’s supporters, who like her, were persecuted for years
by the former junta, will be disappointed she will not have the opportunity to
become president of the country that her father Aung San led to independence
before being assassinated in 1947.

Mr Aung Shin, a confidant of Ms Suu Kyi for 25 years, told the Myanmar Trade
 journal that the NLD will put forward another candidate to contest the presidency.

“The constitution cannot be amended in time but Aung San Suu Kyi would be
happy with being head of the parliament,” he said.

The next opportunity for Ms Suu Kyi to seek to become president would be in
2020 when she would be in her mid-70s.

“By the next election we hope to repair the constitution,” Mr Aung Shin said.

Ms Suu Kyi, the most popular politician in Myanmar, has not spoken publicly
about the decision that was made after the NLD had collected about five million
signatures in support of its campaign to reduce the military’s role in politics.

But she told the BBC she is not worried about not becoming president.

“My dream is about the kind of country I would like it to become – not sitting
in a presidential suite or anything like that,” she said.

Ms Suu Kyi said the people’s right to choose the person they want should
be sacrosanct.

‘That is what we are working for,” she said.

Analysts say Ms Suu Kyi has become close to establishing an alliance with
Shwe Mann, the current speaker of Myanmar’s lower house of parliament
and the third most senior member of the government that has ruled since 2011.

Mr Shwe Mann, a former army chief of staff, would be a powerful ally in
changing the constitution to allow Ms Suu Kyi to later become president.

Under the current system the president is not elected by popular vote but by parliament.

President Thein Sein, who has overseen an opening of the country and
promised a road map of reforms, has not announced whether he intends
to contest the elections.

Analysts say whether Myanmar can consolidate as a democratic nation
with freedom and economic liberalism hangs in the balance as the reform
process that was applauded by Western countries has slowed amid growing
social, ethnic and political tensions.

The government recently licensed foreign banks to do business in the country
and plans are underway to open a stock exchange in October.

But some analysts say Western nations, including the United States and
Australia, moved too quickly to lift sanctions to reward the military before
it delivered on key promises.its privileges and economic interests.

Ms Suu Kyi warned Western powers late last year that they had been too
optimistic and gullible in believing Mr Thein Sein was committed to the
transition to democracy.

“If they really study the situation in this country they would know that this
reform process started stalling early last year,” she said.

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